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National ICT Conference

September 24, 25 and 26 encompassed the time I presented at the National ICT Conference in Durban, South Africa. All of the International presenters stayed at a lovely quest house where each morning we were served a cooked breakfast. From our balcony view we could see the city of Durban and the oceanfront. We also had an opportunity to be welcomed each day from the guesthouse surrounding treetops with monkeys. It was a quite a site to see as they swung from branch to branch and eventually landed on top of the guest house roof.

The conference was a joyous event to attend and present at. This countries culture was truly represented throughout, but especially the opening day and closing day ceremonies with a childrens choir singing the native songs and greeting all attendees, and closing of the attendees singing in true celebration of thankfulness. Bruce Dixon, was the opening keynote presenter, delivering a powerful message addressing reform initiatives that significantly improve the opportunities for learning through the use of technology. His keynote focus set the stage for many meaningful technology integration connections and extended collaborative opportunities throughout the next two days of workshop sessions for all.

The evening events included dining opportunities to experience the African cuisine which included kingclip, mussels, Kudu (antelope), oscterage, and crockidile. Many chocolate and cream decadent desserts were also served to complete the dinner courses. We also attended a dinner conference event where all attendees were invited and we experienced many global and Africa finger foods. To enhance the evenings dinner event we had African dancers that preformed us, and we too with the native clothing for the night, and danced as a large group with everyone to their cultural and ritual dance beat- it was marvelous. Music is the the universal language we can all understand and come together to celebrate as a nation.

I tried my best during my leadership sessions to video stream my presentations, and run a back channel chat back to the states but….. as you can imagine- the limited bandwidth and restrictive Internet access throughout Africa and conference arena were too limited to successfully stream the sessions. But on a positive note… the back channel chat worked very successfully, and immediately pulled in all conference attendees into a live online portal to instantly communicate and collaborate as a community. I used the tool Todays Meet tool, which the archived session can be found at http://todaysmeet.com/SouthAfrica

The workshop conversations and in-depth discussions with my attendees opened up my eyes to an all-new technology world. Did you know Africa was the last continent to gain access to television? This took place in 1974- wow this blew me away. Most of the school attendees that attended my workshop have one computer classrooms or a small lab environment, with extremely limited bandwidth- think of it as a computer lab where you recently trained in and each computer had to “dial up” to gain the connection. There were some exceptions though- some schools that attended now have 3G networks- equivalent to cell phones and multiple labs for technology integration to support their whiteboard initiatives.(The picture posted in the lab where I presented in- Not A Typical Lab though- this was computer lab was brought in by the Mustek Technology vendor to assist me for presentation purposes).

I also found it very- very interesting where most of the children in South Africa that attend a public school have cell phones. Cell phone plans in South Africa are relatively inexpensive- $70 Ran = $10 a month. And when you sign up for a cell phone plan the cell phones are free. Many teachers in this area are using the cell phone technology to their advantage and allowing them into the classroom as a teaching tool to enhance the teaching and learning environment. (Isn’t this a novel idea America educators and administrators!) Also, the teachers are listening to the student’s needs and innovative ideas of cell phone and developing projects and specific lessons with these tools. This is truly amazing! (Gerald Roos is noted in the photo, this was Gerald's profile view throughout the conference. He made sure everything was running smoothly and the cell phone technology was the quickest communication tool to find the right people to do the job).

I must say, I was truly blessed to have an opportunity to present in South Africa with the other international presenters and to meet the many unique and dynamic educators and administrators! The network opportunities were limitless and I learned so much from all of my attendees- especially to be more skilled with the native language, the history and culture of the country, and a new educational perspective of ICT literacy in South Africa.

I also want to thank at this time my gracious host, Gerald Roos, (see picture above) who also was the coordinator of the National ICT Conference. His extensive background technology knowledge, conference planning skills and organization contributed greatly to the conference’s overall success.

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